Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs was named winner of the 2022 Tang Prize in Sustainable Development at a press conference held at the Tang Prize Foundation on June 18. In the citation, the Selection Committee praise Professor Sachs for “leading transdisciplinary sustainability science and creating the multilateral movement for its applications from village to nation and to the world.”
In his opening remarks, Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, mentioned that “how to achieve sustainable development is the most challenging task of the 21st century.” Therefore, he thanked the Tang Prize Selection Committee, its president, Dr. Shu Chien, and its chair, Professor Chao-Han Liu, for their tireless efforts to honor people who have helped us move toward a sustainable future. In a pre-recorded message, Dr. Chien noted that at the Tang Prize’s 10th anniversary, “it has gained worldwide recognition as a major international award for science, society, and the humanity.” He also emphasized the growing importance of sustainable development and expressed his appreciation to the 2022 laureate for making “splendid contributions to sustainability science, thus amplifying the spirit of the Tang Prize to benefit humanity.”
In his introduction of the 2022 laureate, Professor Jough-Tai Wang, professor of atmospheric sciences at National Central University, stressed that “our modern thinking and approach to sustainable development would have not reached the current level of integrated framing nor widespread understanding without the extraordinary accomplishments and contributions by Professor Sachs.” As a prominent economist with a great vision, Professor Sachs is known for his extensive scholarship, policy advice to world leaders, educational innovation, practical demonstration, and global advocacy. Professor Wang also reminded us that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change are “two essential pillars for the world to achieve sustainable development.” Thus, “it is significant to note that Professor Sachs played a unique role in both.” Moreover, the “Pathways to Deep Decarbonization” report published following the global study on “Deep Decarbonization” led by Professor Sachs has inspired many countries to design their own plans to cut carbon emissions. When answering media’s questions, Professor Liu informed us that the Earth Institute at Columbia University where Professor Sachs served as the director from 2002 to 2016 has already started a close cooperation with Taiwan around 1996, 1998 on how to achieve SDGs. In addition, Dr. Chern described Professor Sachs as a “compassionate and intelligent scholar, activist, and leader who shows deep concern for global sustainable development.” He commended Professor Sachs’ passionate commitment to his job, drawing attention to how he has travelled around the world to visit many countries in person, in order to gain a clear understanding of the issues faced by local communities and offer advice that would meet their specific needs.
Responding to the news of the award, Professor Sachs said he was “absolutely thrilled, honored, and gratified.” He referred to previous recipients as “heroes of mine,” adding that “in all of the categories of the Tang Prize, it’s just amazing to see the talent and the leadership and the inspiration that the Tang Prize recipients demonstrate and have given for the world.” He also pointed out that “this is a crucial time in the world in global affairs” and there had been so many crises in recent years. Therefore, he looks forward to “having an opportunity to share ideas” with the people in Taiwan to address the challenges facing the world now.
In 2014, the inaugural Tang Prize in Sustainable Development was awarded to Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. Dubbed by many as the “godmother of sustainable development,” Dr. Brundtland chaired the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the “Brundtland Commission.” In 1987, the Commission published the landmark report, “Our Common Future,” in which the term “sustainable development” was coined and given a clear definition. Dr. Brundtland’s innovative views and leadership have laid a solid foundation for the promotion of sustainable development. In 2016, the prize went to Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld. Referred to lovingly by many as the “godfather of energy efficiency,” Dr. Rosenfeld was celebrated for his pioneering innovations that have resulted in considerable reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions around the world. In 2018, the Tang Prize honored two climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen and Prof. Veerabhadran Ramanathan. They sounded the alarm for climate change, improved our understanding of global warming, and persistently advocates meaningful solutions and policies. Their research laid the scientific foundation for international actions such as the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2020 recipient of this prize is Dr. Jane Goodall. Her groundbreaking discovery in primatology redefined human-animal relationship and her unparalleled dedication to the conservation of Earth environment also prompted many to contemplate on how to coexist with nature and treat it in a respectful way.